Does Loneliness Have a Cost? A Population-Wide Study of the Association Between Loneliness and Healthcare Expenditure

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objectives: Loneliness has been associated with unhealthy behavior, poorer health, and increased morbidity. However, the costs of loneliness are poorly understood.

Methods: Multiple sources were combined into a dataset containing a nationally representative sample (n = 341,376) of Dutch adults (18+). The association between loneliness and total, general practitioner (GP), specialized, pharmaceutical, and mental healthcare expenditure was tested using Poisson and Zero-inflated negative binomial models, controlling for numerous potential confounders (i.e., demographic, socioeconomic, lifestyle-related factors, self-perceived health, and psychological distress), for four age groups.

Results: Controlling for demographic, socioeconomic, and lifestyle-related factors, loneliness was indirectly (via poorer health) associated with higher expenditure in all categories. In fully adjusted models, it showed a direct association with higher expenditure for GP and mental healthcare (0.5 and 11.1%, respectively). The association with mental healthcare expenditure was stronger in younger than in older adults (for ages 19-40, the contribution of loneliness represented 61.8% of the overall association).

Conclusion: Loneliness contributes to health expenditure both directly and indirectly, particularly in younger age groups. This implies a strong financial imperative to address this issue.

Original languageEnglish
Article number581286
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Public Health
Volume66
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • social determinants of health
  • loneliness
  • healthcare expenditure
  • Netherlands
  • health inequalities

Cite this